Barbaro Statue Pays Tribute to Derby Winner

Barbaro's ashes in base of statue

A week before the Kentucky Derby, tribute was paid to Barbaro, the local horse who captured the hearts of the nation by winning the storied race several years ago.

A bronze statue, depicting Barbaro with jockey Edgar Prado as the two pulled away from the field in 2006, contains the ashes of the late Kentucky Derby winner. It was unveiled at Churchill Downs Sunday.

"I think we got it right," owner Gretchen Jackson said.

Tragedy struck later that summer during the Preakness when the colt shattered a leg, derailing his Triple Crown bid. He fought to live for months, but the injury eventually led to his death.

"I know this sounds weird, but I feel like he called to me while he was standing there waiting for help," Catherine Kane said. "From that minute on I have just been so bonded with him."

Kane isn't the only one.

Nearly three years after the injury, fans have inundated owners Jackson and her husband Roy with cards, flowers and memorial Web sites, a wave of public support that has hardly faded with time.

The unveiling is the final chapter of a story that began the second Barbaro took that fateful bad step early in the Preakness. During his eight-month battle at New Bolton Center in Kennett Square, Pa., the public outpouring overwhelmed the center as fans sent treats, flowers and well-wishes.

Melissa Nobles of Tallahassee, Fla., was visiting her son at Army basic training in Georgia during Barbaro's rehab but found time to monitor the horse's progress.

"He was almost like a person, he felt like family," Nobles said.

It's why Nobles decided to send the horse an e-mail — the only one she says she's ever sent in her life — to let him know that he was in her prayers.

"I could care less for (e-mailing) people, but I made sure he got my e-mail," she said. "He was that special."

Dr. Dean Richardson, who oversaw Barbaro's rehab at New Bolton, couldn't help but laugh when talking about the massive wave of support created by his most famous patient's fight.

"Some of you are flat-out crazy, and you know who you are, or maybe you don't, I don't know," Richardson told the crowd. "The fact is these are people who really feel it from the heart and have acted on their feelings. It's been remarkable to even be a part of this great story." 

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